For decades now, mums have played a significant role in Bollywood, both on screen and off it. Jaya Chakravarty moulded daughter Hema Malini into the Dream Girl of the swinging ’70s.
Unfortunately, despite her best efforts, Hema couldn’t do the same for daughter Esha Deol. But she was still around for both Esha and Ahana, a buddy mummy who can make a movie for them too.
Babita made Karisma Kapoor the numero uno actress in her time. And though she wasn’t Kareena’s shadow, deciding on her wardrobe and even approving of shots, she brainstormed for her Bebo too till she made it to the top and found her Chhota Nawab. Today, the Kapoor mamma can relax over a game of cards.
Rani Mukherji’s mother, Krishna, too, is believed to have palyed an important role in chalking out her career and was always spotted at the daughter’s sets.
Some of these mammas were actresses themselves and know Bollywood inside out. For others, it was alien territory. Yet, they negotiated the strange twists and turns as they accompanied their daughters on a journey to stardom.
Madhu Chopra, mother of Priyanka Chopra, sacrificed a successful career as a doctor, to chaperone her daughter to beauty pageant and later film shoots.
Mona Motwani was a dermatologist till her pretty baby, Hansika, landed a TV serial, Shaka Laka Boom Boom, followed by films like Escape From Taliban, Desamuduru and Aap Kaa Suroor opposite a topiless Himesh Reshammiya. And then it was goodbye medicine, hello movies. Journalist friends swore that Mrs Motwani even did interviews on the phone posing as her star daughter. But when we tried to ‘connect’ with her she refused to answer our questions. But some of the other moms did. And we let them have their say.
‘A filmamker refused to narrate certain scenes in front of me’
When Priyanka had to come down to Mumbai for the Miss India contest, my husband agreed only on the condition that I accompany her. After she won the Miss World crown, she was wooed with film offers. Initially we were scared since this was an alien world, but Priyanka is a sensible and fearless girl. And we reasoned that this career option didn’t work out, she could always go back to the movies.
On her first day at the Mujhse Shaadi Karogi shoot, Salman played a prank on her. We’d heard that if he didn’t like you, he gave you a hard time and Priyanka was very nervous. But after the take, Salman and Priyanka hit it off really well. He was so protective of my girl that we didn’t have to worry even when they were shooting night shifts at Film City.
Once, we had to meet a filmmaker for a script narration. On reaching the office, his secretary told us that he couldn’t narrate certain scenes in front of me. I argued that if detailing them for me made him uncomfortable, how was Priyanka going to act them out in front of the unit. Reluctantly, the filmmaker gave in. At the end of the story session I assured him there was nothing for him to feel awkward about.
Being an actress, Priyanka knew that she would be written about. But she was firm that no movie magazines would enter our home. She told me that if I felt the need to, I could question her on any gossip I had heard and she’d tell me the truth. And that I did not need to read rumours about her. I no longer accompany her to shoots but we still spend a lot of time together. Earlier, it was quantity time, now it’s quality time.
‘Today I no longer worry if I have to leave midway through a narration’
Since ours is a traditional South Indian family, education has always been top priority. I wasn’t so afraid when Vidya started doing TV serials at the age of 12, that she would quit on her studies and get lured into the big bad world of movies.
I’m glad my daughter got her degree before living out her dream. And to my surprise, I realised that those who were painted negatively were actually decent gentlemen. We’ve befriends men like Vidhu Vinod Chopra, Pradeep Sarkar and Aziz Mirza for whom Vidya is like a daughter. Pradeepji, in fact, is like family.
Over the years, Vidya has matured as a person and learnt to take care of herself. Today I no longer worry if I have to leave midway through a narration. And though I still accompany her to her shoots and even outdoors, I no longer hang around the sets.
In fact, now Vidya insists that I don’t leave my husband alone at home for a long stretch. She tells me she can take care of herself and I believe her.
While we were shooting Kismet Connection in Canada, I’d often take off to the home of my elder daughter’s friend. Sometimes we even partied there with the unit.
Earlier, negative articles would upset us but now we’ve all become thick-skinned. Why worry, be happy!
‘The job has become tougher since Genelia started shuttling between four film industries’
I work closely with Genelia and help in coordinating her dates for films, events and endorsements. It's a 24x 7 job. Not being from Bollywood, I was at a loss initially. Fortunately, the fraternity was most welcoming and understanding, and slowly, I learnt how to schedule dates without packing her diary and giving my daughter ample breathing space.
The job has become tougher since Genelia started shuttling between the Tamil, Telugu, Kannada and Hindi film industry. It meant sifting through hundreds of offers streaming in from all four regions and ensuring that Genelia had time for her brand endorsements as well.
I normally travel with her to her to shoots, unless her manager from the endorsement agency or her publicist is with her. I discuss scripts but eventually the decision to do the film or turn it down, is hers and hers alone.
It's been a long journey for both Genelia and me. We’ve learnt with every step we’ve taken. Today, when I look back, I’m surprised we’ve come so far.
‘It was scary thinking of Shilpa alone in a hotel’
The family reacted very strongly to Shilpa’s decision to get into movies since we come from an orthodox community. But having chaperoned her, I can assure you today that Bollywood is not the Big Bad World you’re warned about. No one misbehaves with you if you conduct yourself with dignity.
It’s about making the right choices and Shilpa has always worked on her own terms.
There was a scene in Baazigar that required Shilpa to be tied to a harness and pushed down the building from the terrace. She was badly injured and bleeding profusely. But she carried on, undaunted despite the discomfort and pain. The injury left scars that have yet to fade. But the dedication paid off.
There was a time when we would get really upset and lose sleep over silly rumours, distorted facts or malicious gossip.
We even sued one of the magazines. But now we have learnt to laugh it off.
Shilpa was innocent and naïve when she started out and needed a lot of guidance. She was the one who insisted that I accompany her on shoots. She had to travel a lot and it reassured her to have a family member around. It was necessary to accompany her on outdoor shoots because it was scary thinking of Shilpa alone in a hotel and accosted by crazy fans.
We had fewer apprehensions when Shamita followed Shilpa into the movies with Mohabattein and Zeher. She was good but not happy with the offers that came her way subsequently.
I don’t see the need to make comparisons or feel disappointed. It is not necessary that both my daughters should have the same career graph. As long as they are happy doing what they like, I’m okay. Shilpa has settled down with Raj (Kundra) and Shamita’s waiting for the right movies to come her way.
Finally, I can devote time to all those things I have always wanted to do, like the Oneness Processes.
‘One wrong word and we’re labeled vamps’
We mothers have an unenviable job. We have to negotiate awkward situations every day. One wrong word or move and we are labeled as vamps. It’s not fair!
When Amrita started her career, she was really young and clueless about where to go, how to go and whom to meet.
Naturally, I was expected to accompany her to auditions and shoots. Since we are not a typical filmi family, Amrita was comfortable having me around, keeping my eyes open for the what’s, who’s, how’s and why’s.
Fortunately, my actress daughter has competent staff so I can afford to stay in the background. Today, she knows her way around movie town and I’m around only for moral support. Whatever work she has taken on, she’s agreed to herself, even though we discussed things at home.
I understand that as an actress, she needs to be comfortable with her role or else it will fall flat. So there’s no persuasion or force from my side. Amrita does what she wants.
I’ve never spoken to her filmmakers about her work, never commented on her performance when I accompany her to shootings and dubbing. That’s between her director and her.